Safeguarding sport: collaboration for impact

The latest episode of our podcast On Side looks at the issue of safeguarding participants of sport. It discusses the findings of the Australian Child Maltreatment Study and what it means for sport.

Safeguarding our sport: collaboration for impact

Professor Daryl Higgins, Kait McNamara Director and Emma Gardner discuss safeguarding participants of sport, the Australian Child Maltreatment Study and the work done as a result of Sport Integrity Australia’s review of the Western Australian Institute of Sport’s Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Program.



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    Prof. Daryl Higgins: The impact of our Australian Child Maltreatment Study is to really show that the prevalence of maltreatment is so much greater than, in fact, what is coming to the attention of our statutory child protection authorities each year. 

    Kait McNamara: For kids it really is a space where they can become part of the community and I think there's a real role for sporting clubs and organisations to make sure that kids are kept safe in their care, and I think it's also for them being just aware of who can support them if something does happen at their club. 

    Emma Gardner: I think it's cliche for a reason, everybody has a role to play in safeguarding sport and so understanding that it's all very well having your governance structures in place and great policies but if people don't know what their rights are and what their responsibilities are, it's ineffective. Prof. Daryl Higgins: I'm really positive about the role that the sports sector can play in building that parenting capacity and using evidence-based parenting practices as a really upfront thing that they support and engage.



    Podcast Intro: “Welcome to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia. Our mission is to protect the integrity of sport and the health and welfare of those who participate in Australian sport”. 

    Tim Gavel: Hello and welcome to On Side I'm Tim Gavel. At Sport Integrity Australia we're committed to Australian sport environments that are safe, supportive and friendly for all members, including children and young people. We offer a safe place for people to raise concerns about behaviour they've witnessed or experienced in sport. Increasingly sport integrity issues are featured on our front pages, whether it be concussion, racism, gambling or abuse of match officials. 

    There will be times when breaches of policies occur and having the tools available to manage complaints and disputes is essential. On our podcast today we talk about safeguarding, particularly child safeguarding in sport. 

    Our guests include Professor Daryl Higgins, the Director at the Institute of Child Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University, Kait McNamara, the Director of Child Safeguarding at the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries in Western Australia, and Sport Integrity Australia's Acting Director of Safeguarding, Emma Gardner.



    Tim Gavel: So, Daryl, just with regard to the Australian Child Maltreatment study, what sort of impact did it make?

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Well, the study is, as the name implies, the first national prevalence study of all forms of child maltreatment in Australia and it really fills a gap that we have had up until now. 

    Whenever we've talked about child protection issues, we've often gone to data on the different types of maltreatment that come to the attention of statutory child protection authorities, and I think the impact of our Australian Child Maltreatment Study is to really show that the prevalence of maltreatment is so much greater than, in fact, what is coming to the attention of our statutory child protection authorities each year.

    Tim Gavel: How do you define child maltreatment?

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Well, child maltreatment is a term that researchers and many people use to really talk about different forms of abuse and neglect. So, it's when the treatment, if you like, of children by parents or caregivers or others in positions of authority is not what it should be.

    Tim Gavel: How prevalent is it in sport? We've had a look at an overview here, but what about sports specifically?

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: So that is the one area that we have not yet looked at specifically. So, we've not gone down to industry specific types of harm. 

    But of course, sport is just one example of what we would call an institutional context and often in those contexts we're talking specifically about sexual abuse. In our study, we're looking at every form of child abuse and neglect so we're looking at physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence.

    Tim Gavel: Is it gender specific?

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Yes, absolutely. We know that many forms of abuse and neglect are more prevalent for men, sorry for women compared to men. And certainly we found that in our study and one of the unique things that we have is that we looked at not just adults 16 and up who experience different forms of child abuse and neglect during their childhood so we're able to look at changes over time going backwards, looking at gender differences, looking at age cohort differences and that's really the power of a study as comprehensive as ours is. So, 8,500 Australians who participated in telephone interviews.

    Tim Gavel: You'd hope now that you've laid the platform that there is going to be a positive response to your study.

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Oh absolutely. Look, we're already seeing that in terms of different sectors saying how valuable the data is to them. I was meeting with people just last night who were saying how important this is for their work, both in terms of prevention, knowing how extensive it is and therefore what are some of the drivers that we need to be addressing in our community, but also in terms of responses and one of the main ways in which I think our study is really important is that it looks at the health and mental health consequences across life, and we know now that one of the really significant drivers of the scourge that we have in Australia of mental ill health is childhood experiences of abuse and neglect.

    Tim Gavel: Are you expecting that there is going to be further work done study wise you've done the Child Maltreatment study Australia wide, do you feel as though the time is right now to be absolutely specific on some of the areas that you've already identified?

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Look, we're just scratching the surface. This is the first, six major articles have come out in the Medical Journal of Australia but that's just the beginning. We've got another 20 articles that we're planning, so lots further analysis to be done, this is really just the beginning.

    Tim Gavel: Alright, probably the perfect segway to Kait McNamara, Director Child Safeguarding Department of Local Government Support and Cultural Industries in Western Australia. We've just had a look there through the eyes of Darryl about the impact that this study has had. You've obviously had some issues in Western Australia, you've had Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, 310 recommendations for Western Australia. 

    You've had the WAIS, Women's Artistic Gymnastics Program with Sport Integrity Australia conducting that review, so there are issues to deal with sports specifically, aren't there?

    Kait McNamara: Indeed. I think the Royal Commission Institution Responses to Child Sexual Abuse very much showed us that there was no type of institution that sort of escaped this type of abuse and harm of children, that it was prevalent across the board. There is a, one of the Royal Commission volumes does specifically look at sport and recreation itself and certainly found that there were, don't know off the top of my head, but there were a lot of, 500, as I'll say -

    Emma Gardner: 408. It's not scratching the surface.

    Kait McNamara: There you go. So, of people that came forward with their stories about the harm they experienced in in sporting institutions. So it's a big focus of our department, a lot of departments around WA and I'm sure around Australia is implementing those 310 recommendations, which are the ones that WA obviously have accepted, many of which relate to sport and our department leads two of those but we work very broadly across some of the other recommendations with other agencies to ensure that sporting organisations and other sectors that we support are starting to become more child safe.

    Tim Gavel: How do you deal with it? You mentioned there safeguarding, are there other things that you can do to protect particularly young people in sport?

    Kait McNamara: Yeah, I think the sport space is a really interesting one for me. I'm full transparency, not a sporty person by background and I think it's been a bit of a learning curve, but I think for kids it really is a space where they can become part of a community and I think there's a real role for sporting clubs and organisations to make sure that kids are kept safe in their care.

    So, I think at first, it's around going back to the 10 National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. For us, there was a lot of really brave survivors that came forward as part of the Royal Commission and then there were a lot of really clever people that put together recommendations, one of them being the National Principles for Child Safety and they are the foundational building blocks of keeping kids safe in organisations, so we very much encourage all of our sectors including sport to make sure they're starting to work towards the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, becoming child safe. 

    I certainly, as a parent of small children, would look at enrolling my children into a club that could tell me that they have implemented those child safe principles rather than one that doesn't.

    So, I think, there's obviously a lot of things going on that stem from the Royal Commission that I think sporting organisations can look to in the first instance and I think it's also for them being just aware of who can support them if something does happen at their club. Who do they need to contact in the police? Who do they need to contact in the Department of Communities and obviously there's equivalent organisations over here, so start familiarising themselves with those processes and those organisations to empower them to actually know how to support a child if worst case scenario abuse does happen.

    What we learned from the Royal Commission is that the institutional response often was very poor, and that could compound the trauma further. So, I think it's around not putting our heads in the sand and making sure we just accept the fact these things could happen, we prevent them where we can but if they do occur, how do we support that young person in a very, very critical moment, because that can really shape how they then move forward from their journey.

    Tim Gavel: I'll come back to both yourself and Daryl in a moment Kait, but Emma Gardner is Sport Integrity Australia's Acting Director Safeguarding. Emma just on the WAIS recommendations, what role did Sport Integrity Australia have then, and what role does it have now?

    Emma Gardner: Thank you, Tim. So, we basically conducted a review of it is a cultural review of the Western Australian Institute of Sport Women's Artistic Gymnastics program that went from 1987 till 2016, so a massive span. It's important to note that they don't have any more gymnastics programs at WAIS, but it was a cultural review it was never a disciplinary process, but going into the interviews, my background is child protection, obviously was part of some of the more complex interviews that we conducted as part of that review, we had some 86 participants came forward with their stories of lived experience within that program. Some quite positive and we heard of some not so positive and some quite traumatic experiences that were had throughout that program.

    So, I would caveat every interview with this is not a disciplinary process but if you tell me something that indicates that somebody, that yourself or someone else is at significant risk of harm then we will take that information further. 

    So it was an interesting one because it was more of a restorative engagement process, it was a cultural review, and at the end of every interview we asked the athletes and the relevant persons within the sport who wanted to share their story 'What would you do differently if you could?', and so I believe for the majority, for the most part, people feeling heard, people being believed and people understanding that we're doing our best to ensure this doesn't happen again to the next generation of young athletes is key.

    Gymnastics isn't an island. In 1987 not many sports had a child safeguarding policy, in 2023 we're still getting sports to adopt child safeguarding policy and so for me, I guess the key difference for gymnastics and that extra duty of care is that you've got a sport where your elite and sub-elite athletes are children, and so understanding as Kait touched on before, we know a lot more about brain development, we know about the impact of trauma on that developing brain and behaviours that were accepted in the past are not accepted anymore.

    So, documentaries such as Athlete A created a snowball effect so in the UK, in the USA and here in Australia we reviewed gymnastics, there was a Human Rights Commission review also of Gymnastics Australia. So very long answer I'm afraid, and so Kait and DLGSC have been working with Sport Integrity (Australia) to really unpack well, ‘What is the intention behind some of these recommendations?’, ‘What do they mean?’ and What does success look like?’

    So, for example, setting up an independent complaint handling model, what's a reasonable time frame and what does that entail? So that we can ensure that we've got this cross-agency collaboration to really affect some positive change for the children and young people in sport today.

    Tim Gavel: What role does Sport Integrity Australia play in the total sports landscape, not just with WAIS, but you mentioned there the complaints handling model, but can you just give a quick overview on Sport Integrity Australia's role in safeguarding sport?

    Emma Gardner: Absolutely. So obviously a lot of people will be familiar with our organisation in terms of competition manipulation and anti-doping, but we have expanded our remit as part of the recommendations from the Royal Commission we wanted to really have one agency deal with all integrity areas and so now in the Safeguarding Unit, we look at member protection and child safeguarding primarily. And so, what that is, coming from a child protection background, it's a really positive change to be in a proactive space, not a reactive space. 

    So, its education, it is prevention, so we provide policy which is really the drop in the ocean, it's the implementation and the operationalisation of that policy that is key. Providing evidence based, best practice frameworks and other resourcing is really, really key to actually affecting the cultural change that needs to happen to keep people at all levels of sport safe from harm.

    Tim Gavel: What sort of safeguarding issues are we looking at?

    Emma Gardner: It's interesting, Tim, because the data, and I'm so happy for the work that Daryl's doing, because the data from the Royal Commission is quite historical and 408 survivors of abuse in sport, I would say that that's not really scratching the surface. 

    But the key areas of abuse were found, sorry, key risk areas for children and young people such as transporting children, overnight stays, in change rooms etcetera, those are really still the same key increased risk areas that we're seeing today. 

    So, the majority of the complaints that we receive at Sport Integrity Australia are child safeguarding complaints, and overwhelmingly, we're seeing the same key areas. 

    So, it shows us that we're on the money with our policy and that we're sort of still at times I believe the sporting sector thinks we're being overzealous, but we're trying to eliminate grooming without increasing anxiety within the sport but increasing that awareness and the understanding that if you create safe environments then you eliminate a lot of those risks.

    Tim Gavel: Daryl, I'd imagine a lot of what has been said by Kait and Emma resonates with you. Some of the some of the information, I guess that you've received through this study that you've done.

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Absolutely. Look, I'm really glad, Emma, that you used the word grooming and the reason for me saying that is that I think in terms of prevention of child sexual abuse, we are often not explicit about what it is that we're trying to achieve, and so when we're really clear about what are the things, what are the conditions that can lead to harm, clearly grooming is the top one. 

    And so, we need to be explicit about that, we need to say it and the organisations that we're working with need to understand first of all what grooming is and what it might look like because of course it can look very similar to warm, trusting relationships, so that's really complex for organisations, particularly sporting organisations, to get across.

    The other thing that I've been reflecting on as we've been chatting now is the fact that the Australian Child Maltreatment study, not only did it shed a light on the prevalence of different forms of abuse and neglect such as sexual abuse, and we found that 28.5 percent of the population had experienced sexual abuse, we also found though that there have been some positive changes over time.

    So, the younger group within our studies, so the 16- to 24-year-olds had slightly lower rates of sexual abuse compared to the older participants in the study. But one of the main areas that I found really challenging but really important was that things like sexual abuse don't necessarily go on in isolation, often they're going hand in hand with other forms of abuse and victimisation. 

    So that could be abuse that's going on in the family, it could be exposed to domestic violence, it could be emotional abuse, it could be physical abuse, and so if we take a holistic view of children's health and well-being and recognise that harm may be going on elsewhere outside of the sport, what's our role in being able to provide, first of all, trauma informed responses to hear disclosures about harm that might be going on in their home, at school, in other friendship networks, noting of course that even when we're talking about sexual abuse that often harm from sexual abuse is occurring not just from other adults, but from children and young people.

    So that could be other people in the team, it could be at school, it could be online, there's so many different ways where sexually harmful behaviours can be experienced by children and young people. 

    So I think the Australian Children Maltreatment study really sheds an important light on the diversity of different types of harm, it focuses our attention not just on sexual abuse, but all of the different components and elements of that including harmful sexual behaviour from other children and young people and as I said, importantly, the relationship with other forms of abuse and neglect and interestingly, the area that I've been focusing on is how that relates to the long-term wellbeing.

    And we know that adults who are experiencing mental ill health and health risk behaviours like addictions and self-harming behaviours, that they are much more likely to have experienced multiple types of maltreatment rather than a single type. 

    So hopefully this data can really be used by a whole range of different sectors, including sport, not just to renew their efforts around safeguarding to protect children from sexual abuse within their code, but more importantly to keep children safe no matter where the harm comes from and no matter what type of harm.

    Emma Gardner: Daryl, that's music to my ears hearing you say those things because I think part of the key reason that we're here and we're actually in Brisbane for a conference which has law enforcement agencies and child protection agencies involved, is we need to understand that holistic approach and understanding that the complex issues around child abuse and domestic violence, certainly there's normally multiple concerns and different types of abuse going on.

    I think sports understanding their duty of care, sports could be the one safe place that a child has. They have such a strong and key important role to play in terms of recognising indicators of abuse particularly neglect. Neglect when the child doesn't have the right shoes or the right food, it's not because the parent is lazy or can't be bothered, there's usually lots of other underlying issues going on at home and so understanding how to identify and respond to risk of harm is such a key part of this.

    So, we don't just think the sports are going to harm children, but we understand, exposure to domestic violence for example, a lot of sports question 'Well, why is that our duty of care to have that included in our sport child safeguarding policy?'. 

    It is one of the five subcategories of abuse because it is such a huge problem, it is a cyclical problem and you're far more likely to repeat that abuse when you're an adult if you're exposed to it as a child, and so I think that that's really important to sort of provide that education and that knowledge. Particularly when we talk about grooming, there are detectives that struggle to prove grooming.

    It is a criminal offence in four states, but unfortunately it's very difficult to prove and so the policies and the framework, so understanding our role is to really decipher data, to work with data, to thank God, have some current data to be able to work with to be able to contextualise to the sporting space to, yeah, to be able to try and sort of support them to create those safe environments.

    Kait McNamara: Absolutely. I think having this recent data is amazing. I think a lot of people do think the Royal Commission was historical things, I know it did touch on historical abuse, but we know it's still very much prevalent. I think for me, one of the challenges in all of this is, is the sports sector itself in the sense that is often run by volunteers, their parents, it's people who are time poor, certainly the sense we've got from the sector is eagerness, willingness, wanting to know how they can help, we work really closely with the peak body SportsWest WA, who are really driving a lot of this work, so we've certainly come in and found a very willing and engaged sector, it's just it's a really challenging space I think because there is a high turnover at the club level, who's working there, coaches parents, so I think it's one of those things that we have is this information in a different sector, we might approach it differently.

    So, for me it's a little bit how can we actually look at the sector we have, the information we have, all the different areas working in this space and bring it together to actually tailor something for sport? Because I do think they've got some slightly different considerations. It's hard to know how to do that.

    Emma Gardner: And I think sports, they can be a little bit competitive. The clue's in the title, right? And so, they want to get through the national principles and become safe and get a big tick and that's it and it's done, and 'Oh my God, we're safe now'. But you touched on the turnover, the risk isn't going to go anywhere unfortunately.

    There's always going to be new children and there's always going to be people that are drawn to sports with nefarious intent so understanding that continual improvement process and understanding, you've got to stay, keep your finger on the policy with latest legislation and standards and frameworks and data and it's going on and on. I always liken it to Work, Health and Safety legislation when it first came out in Australia and every builder said 'We're never going to build a house! We're never going to get anything done because these rules are ridiculous! Oh my God, it's undoable.' But now it's second nature, and that's where we're at with safeguarding in sport.

    Kait McNamara: Yeah.

    Tim Gavel: Just on grooming, you highlighted a number of issues there, is the online environment, Daryl, a real issue for you at the moment and I guess navigating something we really haven't experienced a lot of before, but now suddenly it is coming in a wave?

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Absolutely. Look, I think with our younger sample in the Australian Child Maltreatment Study, that was one of the key locations if you like or contexts of sexual harm was the online environment. So certainly, things have changed from, 20 years ago, 30 years ago that we have to constantly be rethinking what are the risks that we need to be engaging with and of course, sport is not immune from that. There's a lot of electronic communication that goes on, whether it be between team leaders and participants, between the young people themselves, their friendship networks, they're engaging with each other, it's just one more form of communication that we need to be aware of and having in our sites when we're talking about what safety means for children and young people. But one of the things that I'm really kind of excited about the possibility for sports, and it touches on what you were talking about Kait, in terms of the workforce, if you like, of many sporting clubs being volunteers and being parents themselves. 

    The thing that I'm hopeful about is that effectively we have a training ground for building the capacity of parents because as they're going through the process of creating child safe organisations, their learning skills that they can actually translate into their home environment. Effectively what many sports coaches do, just as many teachers and early childhood educators do, you could in another context call parenting skills. 

    It's about how to manage behaviour of a group or an individual, how to use positive reinforcement, how to avoid coercion, how to avoid harm and those are the same skill sets that we actually want parents to be using in the home. So, I'm really positive about the role that the sports sector can play in building that parenting capacity and using evidence-based parenting practices as a really upfront thing that they support and engage.

    Emma Gardner: I feel like that's a really important part and I think it's cliche for a reason, everybody has a role to play in safeguarding sport and a lot of the contextualised resources that we're looking at, we understand that high performance in the national sporting body are probably not with the risk sits, it's at community levels in sport. And so, understanding that it's all very well having your governance structures in place and add great policies but if people don't know what their rights are and what their responsibilities are, it's ineffective, no one's going to report and complain. 

    And so, educating parents and having them understand that, when we had COVID, prime example, excluding parents from being able to watch their children train because of the numbers in the building is actually illegal. You cannot remove parents’ parental responsibility, and so educating parents on how to find a safe club and how to sort of ask the right questions to ensure that their children are kept safe, exactly what you were talking about before Kait, is key. 

    And part of the work that we're doing also with Play by The Rules is they have a big media campaign coming out called 'Start to Talk', and so the work that we and the safeguarding team aim to do is to develop resourcing to be able to provide that is accessible for people to understand 'OK, well, what does this actually look like? What do I need to know and where do I go?', so yeah, it's a really key part.

    Kait McNamara: Yeah, absolutely and I think picking up on that sort of ability to share information with parents, I think particularly at that maybe more elite, high-performance level, I think that information also needs to come from the clubs themselves. I think there can be that power imbalance between a coach and a family, you see in other sectors as well, we saw it in religious institutions and sure it's in other sectors as well. 

    So I think making sure that the institutes or the clubs themselves are also empowering parents as to let them know to ask for feedback, to make sure that kids are involved in decision making, it starts to sort of level out that power and balance a little bit so that families do actually feel that they could because they might know that they could say ‘Actually I want to stay’, but if they're feeling a little bit unsure because there is that unequal power, they might not actually feel that they want to do that. 

    So, I do think it's also important that the sector itself is driving that sort of messaging to say, 'It's OK if you want to come back to us, this is your right within this institute, this club', so the parents are a little bit more on that level playing field.

    Emma Gardner: And famously, having worked in child protection, it's something that has not happened very well, engaging children, young people in decisions that affect them and having meaningful consultation and closing the loop and co-designing and co-branding resources to them, it's such a key part. I'm not going to plug work that we're doing, we've spoken in the past about, speaking to children, so getting the information from the horse's mouth, understanding where they think the gaps are, because sports identifying where they think operational risk is might be quite different to children and young people so that's part of the work Daryl has obviously been involved in and that we want to continue.

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Yeah, absolutely. Child centred practice is really key to so many different areas and absolutely sport is front and centre in needing to really take that up and so it's great to see that that's on the radar for the sector and I really encourage you all to keep going down that path because we learn very different things when we bother to stop and ask children about things like what makes them feel safe, what makes them feel uncomfortable, things that adults don't necessarily feel the same way about, and to then really respect that and as you say, to have that flow through to decision making. 

    Often when we think about typical school environments and sport environments, there's so many decisions that are made by adults without input or without consultation, without engagement. And of course, there are some things that do have to be the responsibility of adults to decide, but there are so many parts of life where we could legitimately and realistically hand over responsibility to children and young people to be making decisions, and that's really one of the learning steps that we want them to take so that they actually are feeling as though they do have agency in their own lives because we then miraculously are expecting them to have agency if something goes wrong, we want them to speak up. 

    Well, hello? They're not going to speak up if we haven't already practiced giving them agency, if we haven't said ‘It's OK to talk about the icky stuff’, ‘It's OK to tell me when you're feeling uncomfortable’ and certainly from the research that my team have been doing at the Institute of Child Protection Studies at ACU, is that if we don't create safe spaces for those conversations around other things that might be slightly less important from an adult perspective than child sexual abuse, so things like, bullying and harassment or where they feel uncomfortable about their environment et cetera, unless we take those things seriously, they're just not going to tell us about those big things that we want them to be talking about.

    Emma Gardner: Absolutely. I think building trust is such a key element. Having worked in child protection, again, I draw on that experience interviewing children. Often, we would go out on a complaint or a report about one particular allegation and when you build that trust and you are a skilled interviewer or you can sort of ask the right questions, you very often will find out there's a lot more going on than you first initially expected.

    Tim Gavel: Just to finalise things and to wrap it up and I guess, Daryl, you made a very good point there as you did Kaite and Emma, the collaboration between the agencies and people involved in sport is so important. Do you think firstly to you, Katie, is there enough collaboration happening at the moment between the agencies, sporting organisations, government agencies? And how important is it?

    Kait McNamara: I think it's really important. I think I'll only speak from my perspective, but our unit’s been established for about a year now and as I said before, it's the first time I've worked in this sector. I've been firstly, incredibly grateful for the support that Emma and Sport Integrity Australia have been giving us in navigating our way through these recommendations and actions. I certainly often fire off an e-mail saying, 'Can I have a quick chat?' and Emma's always very willing to give the time. 

    We have been very supported in WA by our Department of Justice, WA Police, Department of Communities also navigating our way through this work, so I think there's been a lot of collaboration. We're meeting regularly with other sort of sporting organisations nationally to understand the business, understand the sector and see where some of the challenges are. 

    I think that for me, child safety is, as Emma said, we all have to collaborate because there is not one agency or authority or individual or group that can tackle it and I think the results from the recent study that Daryl's been doing has shown us that unless we as a collective society, we as a collective sector, government, state government, federal government everyone under the sun really join forces to tackle this, we will never address it because I certainly can't help but open the news every day and see another issue in job safety, whether it be sport, culture and the arts, schools, it's pervasive and it's there. 

    So, I think we have to join resources, I think we should where we don't have to double up where someone develops information and resources that another agency or group or state can use, great let's share that because we're all time poor, we're all resource poor, and unless we do that, I just don't think we'll make a dent.

    Prof Daryl McNamara: I've spent many years, almost 30 years now working closely with the child and family welfare sector, and they've got lots of expertise in that sector in preventing all forms of child abuse and neglect, dealing with vulnerability, working with parents, building their skills and capabilities, delivering evidence-based parenting programs and supports. 

    The biggest problem though, is that one of the best ways to get access to those services and supports is to come in contact with the child protection system, get a referral to a welfare agency, and that's not the way it should be. 

    We should be getting that skill set out into the community in non-stigmatising ways, in ways that's accessible to parents and sport is a beautiful example. I often give the example of schools, that parents typically trust teachers more so than they would a child protection worker and so we want to be able to bring that skill set into a universal platform like schools, but I think sport is another great example of that. 

    So how do we bring that that expertise that we have locked away in the statutory child protection system and all of the child family welfare agencies that it funds? What about use the sport clubhouse for holding a seminar around parenting? Or putting out messages in your weekly online newsletter about what are positive parenting practices and aligning it to the work of the club. 

    If you're actually wanting to guide and shape behaviour of the children and young people that you're working with, let's do it in ways that can have a broader impact on our community and keep children safe no matter where they are, whether they're at home or whether they're at the sporting field.

    Emma Gardner: I feel two ways about that question, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think the resources that we want to develop certainly are looking at ways to decipher this information and make it digestible and accessible and really prevent and educate on what creates safety for children and young people in sport. 

    On the flip side of that, we do have an independent complaint handling model at Sport Integrity Australia, and we are receiving complaints about abuse, and I think a really key part of what we do is we need to understand where our jurisdiction starts and stops. 

    We understand that the national principles are principles, they're not enforceable, so states are adopting their own standards and WA it will come. 

    And so working nationally in a federated system, I won't talk to the many challenges of that space but I think for me it's key to understand how we can collaborate effectively when really we do have that soft entry and understanding what's going on for a child in terms of their safety and how do we make sure that we share that information effectively across the right agencies so that when something does go wrong that we get an effective response and really nip it in the bud because as we know statistically one perpetrator can have on average 200 victims, and so that's the that's the key work that where we really need to collaborate with those statutory bodies. 

    Unfortunately, I so agree, I've worked in child protection, I've seen it done really well, I've seen it done not very well and that's all I'll say about that, but yeah, for me, collaboration is key.

    Tim Gavel: Good on you Emma. Emma, Kait, Daryl, thanks very much for joining us on On Side.

    Kait McNamara: Thank you very much.

    Prof. Daryl Higgins: Pleasure.

    Emma Gardner: Thank you.



    Tim Gavel: Thanks for listening to On Side. Our guests today included Professor Daryl Higgins, the Director of the Institute of Child Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University, Kait McNamara, the Director of Child Safeguarding at the Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries in Western Australia. and Sport Integrity Australia's Acting Director of Safeguarding, Emma Gardner. We'll have another episode of On Side very shortly.

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